There’s a common story that unfolds in cities and towns again and again. Artists looking for cheap rent and spaces to work, move into neglected, transitional areas of town. Their presence and impact begins to transform the area and everything surrounding it. Once scary parts of town become trendy and desirable, and real estate prices begin to rise. The next thing you know, the artists are forced to move elsewhere to find affordable space. And so it goes.
As the vitality of our urban core grows and gathers strength, the desire to live and work here is increasing. How do we nurture growth and density, yet continue to support and embrace artists? One way, is to make sure that there is affordable space for them to continue to live and create in the very neighborhoods that they helped transform.
Artspace is a uniquely successful nonprofit real estate developer whose entire mission is dedicated to creating, fostering and preserving affordable spaces for artists and arts organizations. For three decades they’ve pioneered and built affordable housing for artists. They’ve seen how these projects have advanced public agendas, from job creation, to transit-oriented development, historic preservation and community stabilization and they’ve created a successful process for working with communities that includes a preliminary feasibility visit, an arts market survey, leading to the potential of predevelopment planning or customized consulting.
Because of Artspace’s very specific development experience, the City of Phoenix Office of Arts & Culture, along with Downtown Phoenix, Inc., JP Morgan Chase, Arizona Community Foundation and Arizona Forward invited the Artspace team to Phoenix for a preliminary feasibility visit. On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, Wendy Holmes, Sr. Vice President, Consulting & Strategic Partnerships and and Stacey L. Mickelson, Vice President of Government Relations conducted focus groups with artists, representatives from arts organizations, and the public to learn about the specifics of our community, including the success of the locally-developed Oasis on Grand project in the Grand Avenue Arts District, and begin to suss out additional opportunities for creating sustainable, affordable spaces for artists and arts organization in downtown Phoenix.
“We are pleased that so many people from our arts community turned out for the ArtSpace presentations last week,” said Gail Browne, executive director of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. “Clearly there is a great need for affordable live/work housing for artists in Phoenix.”
To date, Artspace has completed 36 projects in over 14 states, and they are in development on several more, including one in Mesa and another in Avondale. Many of their developments have been adaptive reuse projects. Some are combinations of old and new build elements, while others are all new builds. They are scattered in small and large cities throughout the country and many were built to accommodate artists and their families and include multiple two-and three-bedroom units.
“An Artspace project in Phoenix would provide affordable housing to the creative community, which is sorely needed,” said Diane Brossart, president & ceo of Arizona Forward, a nonprofit partner in bringing Artspace to Phoenix. “Artspace has a track record of creating sustainable projects across the country that stand the test of time – they are sustainable live/work environments that support the arts community.”
Most of the Artspace projects combine housing and studio or rehearsal space for artists with community spaces for performances and exhibitions, spaces for arts organizations, or spaces for small commercial enterprises. Holmes points out that “these businesses can be arts-related, or they can be simply arts-compatible.” One example she noted was a project with artist housing, studio spaces, and commercial spaces, including a daycare business. Not an arts business, but definitely arts-compatible.
This notion of a business being arts-compatible is worth thinking harder about as we plan how we want our downtown to grow. What elements work together and truly support the downtown we want, and which are at cross-purposes? And where do artists fit into the mix?
As the Roosevelt Row area has witnessed in recent months, there are strong feelings about what kind of development will be compatible with the lively artistic vibe of the area. Everyone who has invested in this neighborhood is passionate about what should be built on the shoulders of the artists who’ve spent a couple of decades making it their home. Will it nurture the artists in the area, or make it impossible for them to continue to live there? Whatever comes of the debate being waged over development on 2nd Street, the tensions and the passions are part of the growing pains of a city in the process of transforming itself, and not just in the Roosevelt Row Arts Distric, but in downtown overall.
As we temporarily activate empty lots, adaptively reuse historic structures, celebrate new highrise apartment complexes, and loudly proclaim our longing for mixed-use development, the unique experience and expertise of Artspace may be able to help us effectively create and develop affordable spaces that will keep artists working their magic in the heart of our city. As the process proceeds, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the progress and opportunities.
Options for living in downtown Phoenix just keep getting better. This week, The Marquee Apartments at 620 North 2nd Avenue staged its Grand Opening in the heart of the Historic Roosevelt District. The Marquee is a smartly realized midcentury apartment complex developed by Community Development Partners, a development team dedicated to providing high quality, affordable housing to income-restricted seniors.
If you are 62 and over and living with a limited income, this renovated complex offers easy access to light rail, Hance Park, the main library, the post office, the Public Market and a host of cafes and coffee shops, all within an easy walk.
Built in 1958, the Marquee suffered years of neglect before being chosen by Community Development Partners (CDP) as the perfect place to put their feet down in Phoenix. In describing their focus as developers, Eric Paine, CEO of CDP said, “We are passionate about sustainability, about improving lives, and about helping to build the strong, diverse community that is coming to life along the light rail.”
The building is a good example of midcentury architecture that CDP took great care in preserving by restoring many of the original architectural details. In addition, they integrated sustainable elements designed to make the residents more comfortable while conserving energy, including new solid surface flooring, energy efficient appliances, water conserving plumbing fixtures, Energy Star lighting packages, new electrical infrastructure, new cabinets and countertops, fresh paint and in-unit washers and dryers.
Paine also paid tribute to the impact the arts community has had in helping bring vibrant life to downtown. Local artist Hugo Medina, who spoke at the opening, reiterated the crucial role artists play in building communities when he said, “artists give cities their souls, their character and their color.” The Marquee will honor this impact by working with local artists to curate and display regularly changing exhibitions in the complex’s community center.
Colin Tetreault, Mayor Stanton’s Senior Policy Advisory for Sustainability, emphasized the connection to the building’s “sustainable” history. He pointed out that in 1958 when the building was new, many people had their own vegetable gardens, dried their clothes on clotheslines, darned their socks instead of tossing them, and engaged in a host of other “sustainable” energy-saving activities “before being sustainable was cool.…”
He added, “Projects like the Marquee cultivate the growth of a diverse future for downtown. The people who live here bring their experience, their backgrounds and their energy to the community. Adaptive reuse of properties like the Marquee and the integration of sustainable elements provides benefits to business, and has a direct impact on the quality of life for residents.”
Resident Richard Fox was one of the first tenants to move into the Marquee. He came to Arizona to study at Arcosanti in 1972 and never left. Fox loves his home at the Marquee. “When I was growing up we had a beach house in Florida, and yet, this is still the best place I’ve ever lived,” said Fox. “I moved in over Easter weekend and as night fell I looked out of the bedroom window and could see the full moon shining over the Sheraton. It was beautiful.”
Michael Trailor, from the Arizona Department of Housing pointed out that the main difference between developing affordable housing and market rate housing is the complexity of the financing. In the Marquee, CDP found a way to navigate the process and deliver a smart, efficient and welcome new option for living downtown.
Apartments in the complex are still available, so if you are at least 62 and living with a fixed income, you need to check them out.
Select photography provided by The Marquee, courtesy of Tony Felice PR & Marketing
Native American Connections (NAC) could not have picked a better day for their ceremonial “Top Out Celebration.”
Urban Living on 2nd Avenue (“UL2″) welcomed its first visitors this morning, which happens to be Bike to Work and School Day. The residential project is located at 650 North 2nd Ave. (southwest corner of 2nd Ave. and McKinley), just a block away from METRO Light Rail.
With this in mind, perhaps the most significant statistic cited during the proceedings was that future UL2 residents will not need a car because of its proximity to light rail, thereby saving residents over ten thousand dollars each year in transportation costs.
So, let’s see… A transit-friendly location in a good neighborhood? Check. A “trail blazing” nonprofit as developer? Check. Affordable, quality, rental housing in the heart of downtown Phoenix? Check and…check.
Let’s call this a win for downtown Phoenix.
Construction began in September 2012 and is scheduled to complete in December 2013.
One of Downtown Phoenix’s proudest neighborhoods is getting a face-lift thanks to a new housing project on Grand Avenue. The original motor hotel, Oasis on Grand, is being adapted into housing for artists as a way to contribute to the revitalization of the neighborhood.
The 99 room motel is being converted to 60 affordable studio and one-bedroom apartments. The property has been commercially zoned as live/work space for artists, allowing their home to become their studio, gallery and a place where they can sell their work.
The 29 colorful units along Roosevelt have a windowed, street-level gallery. When the unit is open to the public, a front gate on the balcony can be open, inviting people in. These units are set up so their gallery and studio are in the front and the bedroom is in the back. The spaces on the upper level are a bit larger, but without the ground-level accessibility.
Renting a unit in The Oasis will cost an artist anywhere from $400-$700 a month. Preleasing has already begun on the Oasis on Grand website and interest has been high.
Timothy Sprague, a lawyer turned real-estate developer, and his firm Habitat Metro are behind the $5 million project. Habitat Metro developed the high-end Portland Place condominiums. Sprague hopes to include a larger gallery in the building for resident and local artists to display their work. In addition, he envisions a coffee house/bistro and a stage for concerts.
“I’m hoping to have some music associated with it. I think the music scene needs to be a big part of it and the Grand Avenue area has an opportunity to become the music scene like you see in Austin,” said Sprague.
The Oasis project is breathing new life into the Grand Avenue area. Not only does it bring Phoenix new First Friday galleries, it brings a new avenue of housing to downtown.
“This project is jump-starting a neighborhood renaissance that will benefit the local community as well as Downtown Phoenix for years to come. Providing 60 units of housing for families earning modest incomes could bring people to this neighborhood who have never been here before,” said District 7 Councilman Michael Nowakowski in a press release issued by the City of Phoenix.
Sprague cited many people as being extremely instrumental in this project, including Nowakowski and also Jerome Miller, the Deputy City Manager.
Sprague is no stranger to Downtown Phoenix history, especially in the Grand Avenue area. He is familiar with who owns each of the landmark buildings along with their original uses and future plans.
The Oasis is owned by Tom Carmody and was originally planned to be an affordable condo project.
“Tom has been very instrumental in saving some things downtown here that very few people know about. He owns the little shopping center where Carly’s is. You know where Modified is? Kimber Lanning owns that now. When she first opened up the gallery, she was a tenant of Tom’s and Tom said ‘for you to really get a foothold, you need to own some property,’ so Tom sold it to her,” Sprague shared.
Carmody bought the Oasis Motel to help clean up the neighborhood.
“The Oasis was a 99 room hotel that was operated as a flop house. It was a den of sin. Prostitution, drug deals, you name it. It was bad stuff. Tom bought it from a gentleman who was constantly in a battle with the fire department. They would come in and want to shut him down and he would put a band-aid over what ever was wrong to keep them at bay for another 60 days,” said Sprague.
Once Carmondy bought the property, he shut it down. According to Sprague, crime decreased by 50% in the area.
After visiting Portland and witnessing the real-estate development before and after the Portland light rail system, Sprague knew that there was real possibility in Phoenix.
“We developed two properties up there [Portland] and sold them, and we came back after the light rail system had been put back into place, wow. Changed completely,” said Sprague.
Habitat Metro then began to look at transit-oriented development in Phoenix. Sprague shared that they looked at a few properties on Camelback and Central, but were never able to make the deals work.
That is when they acquired the Portland Place property from the City of Phoenix and began the three-phase project. What you see now is Phase 1 and according to Sprague, it was very successful. Condos in the complex sold for $400/sq. foot.
“But what we realized is that for downtown to be vibrant and to work, you’ve got to have a full spectrum of residential properties within the market. Not everyone can afford to buy an expensive condo. So that’s one of the things that really attracted us to the Grand Avenue market,” Sprague said.
Sprague believes that in order to maintain an urban environment, there has to be residential diversity in the area. He didn’t see that in Portland Place.
“The only common denominator is that they don’t have children. It’s older, empty-nesters to single divorcees to partners to dual-income couples with no kids. The people who really want that urban scene. And to have that scene, you’ve got to have art and texture,” Sprague said.
That’s why he and Habitat Metro are creating Oasis on Grand. Visitors can tour the location during the 3rd annual Grand Avenue Festival on Saturday, October 22, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Christoph Kaiser is helping to rebuild Garfield one house at a time. Once an epicenter of gang activity and urban blight in Downtown Phoenix, Kaiser’s houses are now at the heart of Garfield’s resurgence, and among the coolest in Downtown Phoenix.
Kaiser is part owner of the architectural firm Plus Minus Studio, founded by him and his business partner Hayes McNeil in the fall of 2005. Since its founding, they have added Anson Chen to their team as Project Manager. The studio has been responsible for some of the most striking projects in and around Phoenix, including transforming Katz’s Deli into Postino Central and the complete remodel of Kitchen Sink Studios in Downtown Phoenix. In addition, Christoph has recently joined Hayes as partner in the new Royal at the Market coffee shop at the soon-to-be-opened Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery and Wine Bar.
While this portfolio is indeed impressive for a young architect, it is his personal projects in the Garfield neighborhood that captured the attention of DPJ. Garfield is the oldest historical district in Phoenix. First established in 1883, it became part of the city of Phoenix in 1899. Houses in the neighborhood date from the 1890s to the 1940s, with a large percentage built in the early 1900s. Unlike the grand dames of Phoenix’s historic districts, Willo and Encanto-Palmcroft, which have mostly remained intact and have dramatically appreciated in value, the historical homes in Garfield fell on hard times over the past three decades.
Kaiser purchased and remodeled his first house in Tempe while still a student at ASU. After graduating, he set his sights on Downtown Phoenix because of the dynamic changes occurring Downtown and the availability of affordable historic homes. “Historic homes put me at peace,” Kaiser says. He also notes that older homes encourage commitment, something that is lacking in many of the interchangeable stucco boxes that popped up in the suburbs during the real estate boom.
The Garfield neighborhood has changed a lot since 2005, when he first moved in — there was still gang activity on his street back then. At that time, Kaiser felt like he was the only one trying. Rather than be deterred, however, he saw this as an opportunity. Not only were the prices right for an architect with shallow pockets but deep vision, but also the dire shape of the area provided opportunities for creativity that would not have been available in other neighborhoods. He has seen a dramatic change over the past four years, brought about, in part, by a shift from renters to owners who are renovating their homes as well. In addition, the remaining landlords are paying more attention to the upkeep of their properties in hopes of attracting new tenants from ASU and the Biomedical campus.
Kaiser’s desire is to create interesting living spaces for the working class and students. They are a unique alternative to the condo towers and apartment blocks that we normally think of as “urban living.” His approach to design and architecture is akin to an unfolding progression. When you first approach his homes, they look largely like they did when they were first built, as he has done his best to respect the exterior’s authenticity. One of the only differences is the desert-friendly landscaping. Once you step inside — or around back — however, you enter a realm of the unexpected.
Kaiser takes the concept of place-making to a micro level. While the term traditionally refers to creating neighborhoods, he creates places as small as a garden patio. To create such a place, Kaiser pays particular attention to creating a sense of arrival, where it feels like you are entering your own world, despite being just steps away from the bustle of Downtown. As a result, he is as interested in the outside of his houses as he is with the interiors. He has spent a lot of time researching indigenous desert plants and has planted many varieties of mesquite. He is now experimenting with interspersing fruit trees between the desert trees, because, he states with a wink, “After all the work I put into planting, watering and otherwise maintaining my yard, it would be nice to get something back.”
On the inside, Kaiser tries to fit as many unique living spaces as possible. He has created units in once-empty attics and created communal living spaces on the main level for people renting out bedrooms. Christoph fills each place with whimsical touches, including an intriguing mix of vintage finds and high-tech conveniences. While there are plenty of IKEA products throughout his unit, due to their affordable-yet-stylish forms, he also has several higher-end pieces that were custom made to maximize the use of space. In addition, he is in the process of building unique living spaces in his back yards, including a renovated 1967 Airstream trailer and a corrugated metal silo that he is constructing as a self-contained living space. He notes that the four to five people living in each of his houses, while dense by today’s standards, was the norm when the houses were first built. The only difference is that they were families living together back then, while there are friends living together today. This added density allows for more affordable rents, attracting a mix of students, artists and creative young professionals.
A good way to describe this combination that Kaiser has developed is to use a phrase coined by Alison King of Modern Phoenix: “Mullet Modern — conservative in the front, party in the back.” According to Kaiser, “Neighborhoods need some interest, with some more aggressive or edgy touches to attract diverse types of people, yet still being respectful of the neighborhood’s authenticity.” He admits that many of his ideas wouldn’t fly in a more established historic neighborhood, but in a recovering neighborhood like Garfield, they are a perfect fit.
Kaiser’s Garfield homes are located at 732/734, 910 and 915 E. Pierce St. Please contact him directly at email@example.com or (602) 697.1205 for more information.
All photos courtesy of Christoph Kaiser